London on Foot – Imagining Jack the Ripper’s London

It was a gloomy, chilly night in London town as we made our way down to Whitechapel  – for what seems like the first time, London’s weather was actually perfect for the occasion, as we were doing a Jack the Ripper walking tour that night.

I was really excited about it the entire week before, because it was something so cheesy and cliché and it was nearly right in our backyard. It’s that feeling you get when you are a hometown tourist – feeling like you know what’s up, but also experiencing what you usually find so familiar in a completely new way.

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We were pleasantly surprised by the Jack the Ripper tour. Our guide was friendly but professional, he cut to the chase, and it was surprisingly not corny at all! He elaborated on the myths and theories, but also made sure to state the little-known facts, and showed some creepy pictures of Jack’s victims in between. He did warn the group when he was about to show really gross photos (specifically Mary Kelly’s mutilated corpse), so you don’t HAVE to look at them if you don’t want to.

It was a refreshingly different kind of Friday night, winding through dimly lit back alleys, and, with the help of our raconteur-tourguide, imagining the smoggy slums of nineteenth-century London, rife with crime, prostitutes and 24-hour pubs. What made it really great is that we got to learn about the area, greater London, the police system, etc., as much as we got to know about the murderer himself. While the tour covers an area that was mostly flattened by the WWII (See?! We never even knew that until our Jack the Ripper tour!), one of the highlights is stopping by a historic house that remained in one piece. It is a beautiful old gem, with red paint plastering and flaking off its walls, embodying a time and space that is so apparently different from the buildings hugging it on either sides.

The historic house on Princelet Street
The historic house on Princelet Street

We just think it is a great way to get to know London on foot, and also a great way to spend a couple of hours in the evening (if you’re visiting London and you find yourself googling ‘things to do in London at night’) – especially with the folks from the official Jack the Ripper Tour company.

IS IT SAFE? What. It is so safe. Our guide did tell us to keep an eye on our pockets and such. But I honestly don’t even think it was really necessary for him to do that. While the tour mainly takes place in back streets, they are the back streets of an area that is becoming very cool and hip. Not so much London slums any more.

IS IT CREEPY? Uhm… It’s actually not as creepy as you’d think (for it being a tour focusing on a serial killer). Our guide was very matter-of-factly – it didn’t seem sensationalised at all.

IS IT TIRING? While it is approximately 2 hours on foot, the tour proceeds at a leisurely pace. Our guide was particularly considerate about people keeping up and crossing the roads, and so on. So we think you can suck it up and do it.

HMMM…I THINK I’D RATHER JUST GO TO THE MUSEUM. NO NO NO NO NO. That’s crazy talk. We haven’t actually been there – but we heard it’s pretty lame and quite a ripper-off (dum dum chuh).

MAIN DRAWBACK? No cat spotting, petting, feeding or adopting included in the tour.

Learning about the immigration population of 19th-cent. London just off of Brick Lane
Learning about the immigration population of 19th-cent. London just off of Brick Lane

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